3D Character Design


Research and Sketches

As the assignment brief has been given to me just before Halloween, I have been inspired to use this assignment to explore my passion for Halloween. When thinking about ideas for a character model based on Halloween the first thing I thought of was a pumpkin carving. This is ideal for the purpose of displaying emotion on my 3D character because around this time of year pumpkins are transformed from an emotionless piece of food to a range of unique decorations all with different facial expressions and giving off different emotions. My first idea before sketching anything out was to combine three pumpkins and stack them on top of each other giving each one a different emotion. However after talking about this to friends and family, it became clear to me that this would make my character look a lot more like a snowman than a pumpkin which would convey a completely different emotion to what I wanted. This, I felt went against the assignment brief and made me rethink my ideas. After thinking some more about my theme and exploring emotions I decided to design a baby pumpkin character. This was because the only way a baby can visually communicate is through the use of facial expressions and this would also be the only way a pumpkin would be able to convey a certain emotion. Although this is a simple sketch, a lot of thought has been put into each aspect of the character. The large facial features and small limbs help suggest the character is a baby and the roundness of each feature also adds to the child like image making it seem a lot less harsh than the typical pumpkin. This sketch also briefly touches on the colour design of the character, which is very similar to the of a typical pumpkin with the acception of the limbs which will be either vines or roots.

Character Description in Narrative Terms

After designing the visuals of my character I had to give it a personality and some traits that would help me convey emotion. The first thing I did was give my character a name because that is the base of a personality. The name I have given to my Character is Wacko Jack’o. This is very suggestive to the character’s personality, the fact that is rhymes is very childlike and fun. The word Wacko also suggests some of the traits of the character and links to Halloween in terms of it hinting at being scary. However wack is a childlike word for scary making the character seem a bit less threatening. The secondary part of the name is just a shortened version of the word Jack’o Lantern. Therefore the name alone hints the personality of the character and exactly what object it is mimicking. The backstory of Wacko Jack’o is that he was an ordinary pumpkin growing in the countryside until one Halloween a freak storm hit the area. Wacko Jack’o was hit by lightning and came to life, lifting himself from the ground using his vine like arms and legs. He then found his way to the city where he began causing chaos to everyone celebrating Halloween. However because he is so small and is just a baby pumpkin the character can be very clumsy and not taken seriously due to this. This backstory gives the character a personality of being slightly scary and angry but clumsy making him a likeable villain. After giving my character a suitable name matching the personality it has been given and also sketching out visuals, I can now begin to create my character.

Creating the Base

Although I have no experience with ZBrush I have decided to create my character using this as in my opinion, I will be able to achieve a lot more detail than I previously could when using Maya. This will make the assignment a lot more difficult for me with my little experience but I also think that it will make it more interesting and I should be able to learn how to use this software the same way I previously did with maya. I started off by creating the base which in my opinion was the simple pumpkin shape. So today I started off with a simple sphere and drew 6 lines from the top to the bottom around the outside creating indentations similar to a pumpkin. I drew these evenly by using the active symmetry settings to create 6 points of symmetry down the y axis. I then needed to make the shape less of a perfect sphere to give it more of a pumpkin shape. I achieved this by using the move brush and increasing the draw size so i could easily manipulate the top and bottom of the sphere. I then decreased the draw size and using the same brush slightly moved the bottom inwards and top upwards to give it a top and bottom. The next part of the pumpkin base was creating the stem to go on top of the pumpkin. For this I used a technique I learned in one of the 3D lab sessions. I created another sub tool with a Z sphere and by clicking on certain angles of the original sphere I was able to create a shape that looked like a circular stem. To turn this into a more robust shape rather than a group of circles, I used the adaptive skin tool to make it into one smooth shape. In order to give this a more wooden texture, I then used the rake brush tool to give the appearance of a bark like surface.

Creating the Character’s Limbs

After creating the base of the character the next step was to add the limbs to turn the model from a basic pumpkin to something with a body. I started by creating the vine like arms to go on either side of the base. For this I used the same method that I previously used for the stem of the pumpkin, using a Z sphere to create a shape using a series of attached spheres and eventually turning them into an adaptive skin. After this I used the smooth brush to make the shape rounder and more like the shape of a vine. I then duplicated and rotated it to place an arm on each side of the pumpkin base. I then brushed over each arm with the layering brush to give them more detail and the texture of a rough jungle like vine. After placing the arms on each side it was only natural to next add the legs onto the bottom which I changed from my original design. In my original sketch I drew the legs of the character in the form of vines however after some extra time to think over my design and critique it in detail, I realised this was not realistic for character movement and it did not match the personality of my character. This is because the vine arms are designed to be loose and not very sturdy therefore I could not use the same design for the legs as it would not be a viable option to hold up the weight of the pumpkin and would not look right in movement. This is why I changed them to wooden-like roots. In terms of visual looks they are a similar shape and I have reused the rake tool in order to give them a rough bark texture in order for them to look more sturdy. They now match the personality of my character as he cannot cause chaos and travel from the countryside to the city with legs that cannot carry his own weight.

Exploration in relation to a particular visual style or tradition in Animation or Games

My first thought when thinking of a visual style to base my pumpkin character on was the popular Halloween themed film, the nightmare before Christmas. However I wanted to ensure the baby personality came through clearly visually. Therefore I decided to explore the style of popular child like animation figures. One popular baby character is Boss Baby. Just from the style alone you can clearly tell the age of the character due to dramatised facial features and body style. The eyes are the biggest hint to the age as they are very large and take up most of the area on the face. However it is not just the size of the eyes in this particular art style that hint to an age it is also the placement of them. They are low down on the face leaving a lot of forehead room. The artist help site Pencil Kings has an article written by Mitch(2014) which states when drawing a cartoon style baby “push the proportions a bit further and add in larger eyes”. This is my reasoning behind make the pumpkin have large eyes and leaving a lot of space on the forehead. I decided I wanted to base this on more than just one art style in order to make my model unique. The iconic cartoon from the early 2000’s Rugrats, depicts one of the main baby characters as having large iconic teeth to show they only have a few due to their young age. As you can see in the picture below. I decided to adapt my character to this style by giving him one large front tooth to solidify the age range. One common factor between all of these art styles is that each young character has small limbs in comparison to their head and body. As my character has no body and only a head, I made the head significantly larger than the limbs. The limbs are very short and stubby in comparison to the body. This not only makes the character look younger but also fits in with the previous art styles that I have mentioned as all of these include disproportionately small limbs.

Body Style and Personality

The personality as I previously described is chaotic yet clumsy. This is why I have chosen to mis-match the placement of the limbs as you can see from the pictures of my topology. Although the limbs are similar in size and placement they are slightly misplaced on the body to represent the personality. The legs of the characters are placed so one is slightly in front of the other. This hints to the movement of the character as it suggests the character walks in a clumsy manner due to the imperfection of leg placement. This is also repeated with the placement of the vine like arms placed on either side of the head, as one is placed in front of the other. However this is unlikely to have much effect on the movement of the character but it does affect the visual style of the body making the character look imperfect and rough. This in turn supports the back story that the character was literally uprooted from the ground in a rough and quick manner. Another way in which the body style and personality go hand in hand is through the use of facial expression. In the pose my model is currently in the facial expression conveys anger causing the viewer to possibly feel scared. However although pumpkins are known for their static facial expressions this character will have the ability to change facial expressions as you would expect any other character to. The basic shape of the facial features will stay the same, such as the circle inside of the eye representing an iris and the one large tooth in the mouth.

Description of Accessories and Poses

My Character does not necessarily have any accessories however this was designed purposely with the character’s back story in mind. I felt it would not be fitting to add clothes or unnatural accessories to a character that had supposedly just come from the ground and is still a young child/baby. Although after adding the limbs to the head. I thought the design didn’t quite look complete and I needed to add accessories even if they were natural ones. This is why I decided to add leaves to the vine like arms to make the character seem less dull and brand. Creating the leaves itself took up a large amount of time on this project simply because I wanted them to look right in order to complete the look of my model. I created them using a 3D plane and cutting out a leaf shape using the mask tool. I then used the standard tool to create a large dissection line down the middle of the leave and used the opposite of this using the alt key. This allowed me to make indentations in the leaf creating the vein like lines coming from the centre. When this was done, I used the move brush to manipulate the shape into a more free flowing leaf. After this I then used the move and scale tool to place these leaves in random places along the arms of the character. I also added one to the pumpkin stem as I realised this was in my initial design.

Description of Colour Design

During the design and research process of creating this model my first thoughts on colour were very basic. My idea of the colours I would use would be very basic and consist of only orange, brown and green and I did not even think about textures. This was mainly due to the fact that I was new to ZBrush and unaware of the capabilities of the software. After working with the software for a few weeks I started to realise that I could use textures and colour combinations to improve the look and quality of my final design. The first subtool that I started colour design on was the pumpkin head. For this I used two different materials. I used Blinn for the pumpkin base because it was dull yet slightly reflective like the surface of a pumpkin and for the eyes and mouth I used Chalk so it would not reflect light making them look darker. The pumpkin base consisted of three different oranges and one green. I chose orange for the main base colour in order to keep in tradition with colour of a normal pumpkin. However the three different shades I used were used to define the shape of the pumpkin by placing darker oranges on crevices and folds of the base. The green was used to make it look almost like the pumpkin had gone off and add to scare factor. The Stem and the legs were both brown colours applied with a texture brush in order to give the effect of a wooden feel to each of these aspects. The most challenging aspect of my colour design was the vine like arms. This is because I had so much choice over what colours I could use for a vine. After a lot of consideration, I decided to use a bright green merged with a dark green for the arms. This was because I wanted to portray to parts of my character using colour design. I used light green to portray the child-like side of my character, the light green did this because it is a bright primary colour that is often associated with young children and in terms of vines, a lighter colour suggests they are younger than those that are very dark. I also decided to use sections of dark green to not stray away from the fact that the character is slightly evil and chaotic.

Finished Textured Images of Wacko Jack’o

Video of Wacko Jack’o


Cute Face (2018) Boss Baby. [Photograph] Available Online: https://www.nicepng.com/ourpic/u2q8q8q8t4q8w7w7_report-abuse-boss-baby-cute-face/ [Accessed 26/11/19]

Mallenbaum, C. (2018) Rugrats. [Photograph] Available Online: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2018/07/16/rugrats-back-nickelodeon-episodes-movie/790333002/ [Accessed 28/11/19]

Mitch (2014) Face Fundamentals | 10 |Drawing Cartoon Babies. Available Online: https://www.pencilkings.com/drawing-cartoon-babies/ [Accessed 26/11/19]